The Frontenacs

The Frontenacs

The Frontenacs

The Frontenacs

Excerpt

XAVIER FRONTENAC glanced shyly at his sister-in- law. She was sitting very upright on the chair which she had drawn to the fire. She made no use of its back, and she was knitting. He could see that she was annoyed, and tried to remember what he had said at dinner. His remarks, in retrospect, seemed to him to have been completely innocent of offence.

His eyes were focused on the great bed with its twisted columns, in which eight years before, his brother, Michel Frontenac, had died with such agonizing slowness. In imagination he could still see the head thrown back, the massive neck, the unshaven stubble, and the cloud of June flies which he had been unable to keep from settling on the sweat-covered face. Nowadays, they might have tried trepanning. Michel might have been saved, might be with them now. . . . Xavier could not take his eyes from the bed, from the walls, though it was not in this room that his brother had died. A week after the funeral Blanche Frontenac, and her five children, had left their home in the rue Vital-Carles, and taken refuge on the third floor of the house in the rue de Cursol, where her mother, Madame Arnaud-Miqueu lived. But the old blue curtains, with their patterning of yellow flowers, still hung before the windows and around the bed. The chest-of-drawers and the wardrobe still faced one another as in the old room. On the mantelpiece the bronze statuette of Faith still stood — a woman in a high-necked, long-sleeved dress. Only the lamp was different. Madame Frontenac had bought one of an improved design, much admired by all the members of the family: an alabaster column topped by a glass container in which a broad wick, . . .

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